A Sad Day for the Security Industry

By Matthew Hines  |  Posted 2008-07-14 Print this article Print

Shocking news arrived over the last day from Hawaii, where the body of Webroot founder Steven Thomas was discovered post mortem.

Thomas, 36, had apparently run upon some troubled days after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and, according to a report in the newswires (UPI), failing to take his medication.

He had been missing for over a week until his body was discovered at the bottom of a cliff on the island of Oahu. Your thoughts of course have to go out first to those loved ones who Thomas has left behind

Reading the story, and considering how bright and successful this guy truly was for his young years, surely has to make anyone self examine a bit and wonder how things can go awry quickly in life, and how those among us who seem the most brilliant and triumphant often may in fact be quite internally conflicted.

I never knew Thomas personally, and I don't believe that I ever had the pleasure of interviewing him for a news story or seeing him speak at a conference, but Webroot without question stands as one of the most notable and inventive security companies that ever cropped up on the vendor landscape.

While many people were only beginning to understand the unique challenges that spyware -- which went on to become one of the most troublesome forms of malware -- presented, here was this guy, and his then girlfriend Kristen Talley, who started a company to address the problem in 1997.

1997. That's pretty damned early in the game by any estimation.

Clearly the guy wasn't just smart -- he was off-the-charts brilliant and able to see well into the future from a security and marketing standpoint. Or at least the partnership was.

I do remember that when I first started covering security years ago, one on the first stories I wrote was about how some experts, and many rivals, were saying that anti-spyware companies wouldn't be able to make a living on their own anymore because this was a product set that was fast becoming a mere feature of integrated endpoint solutions.

Well, Webroot has branched out over the years, but, in a testament to the longevity of Thomas' ideas, if not his days here on Earth, the company still lives on, and seemingly well at that.

So, I guess I'm just another helpless observer who will always wonder how and why brilliance in our world is so often short-lived and tempered with vulnerability, how so many of the people who achieve tremendous things in life somehow still manage to feel unsettled or unhappy, and to wonder why.

But rather than offering some half-cooked theory as to whatever it is that causes this phenomenon we have all seen and heard of many times in our lives, let's send good tidings to Steven wherever he is. He accomplished some goals in his short life of 36 years that many of us will never hope to achieve in much longer timeframes.

I hope that he is in a better place, and we should honor his memory for leaving us with the legacy of his intelligence and creativity that lives on in the form of the company he founded and the unquestionably innovative technologies they've built.

Thanks Steven. Be well.

Matt Hines has been following the IT industry for over a decade as a reporter and blogger, and has been specifically focused on the security space since 2003, including a previous stint writing for eWeek and contributing to the Security Watch blog. Hines is currently employed as marketing communications manager at Core Security Technologies, a Boston-based maker of security testing software. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Core Security, and neither the company, nor its products and services will be actively discussed in the blog. Please send news, research or tips to SecurityWatchBlog@gmail.com.

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